Dick Van Dyke was one of Hollywood’s most legendary actors back in the 60s, in big part due to Carl Reiner’s iconic sitcom “The Dick Van Dyke Show.” The show, which ran from 1961 to 1966, featured actress Mary Tyler Moore as Van Dyke’s wife, Laura Petrie. Once the show ended, Moore signed a contract with Universal Pictures and starred in three films that premiered one after the other.
Unfortunately, only one of those films did well in theaters, and Moore’s acting career started to slowly dwindle. So, when she got a call from CBS producers offering her a role on a variety special called “Dick Van Dyke and the Other Woman,” she immediately said yes. The special was a massive commercial and critical success and prompted CBS to offer Moore her own show, starting with 24 half-hour episodes.
The Character of Mary Richards Was Meant to Be a Divorcée
When the creators of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” were coming up with Mary Richard’s character, they imagined her as a recently divorced woman who had left her husband and moved to the city. They wanted Richards to embody a 30-year-old independent woman who moves to a new home and finds a new job to support herself.
However, when the network heard their idea, they were told that mainstream audiences in the U.S. would never accept a divorced woman on the TV screens. Effectively so, after audience testing, show co-creator Allan Burns found that people hated the idea of Mary being a divorcee. So instead, they decided Mary would be a single woman who broke off a long engagement and needed to fend for herself.
Mary Was Supposed to Work for a Gossip Column
When the show aired, it had Mary Richards finding a job working for a news station, but this wasn’t the original concept. When they were writing the show, James L. Brooks and Allan Burns envisioned the character of Richards working as an assistant to a sassy gossip column in Los Angeles, California.
But after some careful thinking, this was exactly what they didn’t want – to perpetuate the stereotype that a “career woman” meant working as an assistant writing gossip. So, they reworked the character to live in Minneapolis and work at a news show instead, and clearly, it worked like a charm.
The MTM Enterprises Kitten Was Adopted From a Shelter
Actress Mary Tyler Moore was married to American TV executive Grant Tinker for nearly 20 years, and he was the man who came up with the emblematic MTM Enterprises. Since the production company was named after her, using her initials, Moore was delighted and immediately agreed. But obviously, the similarity to the famous MGM Studios wasn’t lost to anybody, so they decided to make the best of it.
A member of the staff suggested as a comedic gesture that they find a kitten for MTM’s logo since they were a much smaller company than MGM, which had a roaring lion. Everyone loved the idea, so the very next day, a small kitten was adopted from a Minneapolis shelter; they named it Mimsie.
Gavin MacLeod Wanted to Play Lou Grant
Actor Gavin MacLeod made a name for himself in the '60s by appearing in several shows on TV and some minor films. In 1969, Grant Tinker called and told him about the role of Lou Grant – he wanted MacLeod to audition for the part. MacLeod auditioned and then was immediately asked to read as the character of Murray Slaughter, Moore’s co-worker.
Tinker thought MacLeod was perfect as Murray, since he was more likable and easygoing, as opposed to the stern Lou Grant. The show’s producers agreed with him, and MacLeod was cast as Murray, which proved to be a brilliant decision.